Forest management: The why, the how, the what

A forest’s value for wildlife management greatly depends on the productivity capacity of the land, the structure of the timber stand, the existing stage of plant growth and the specific wildlife habitat requirements.

The forest conditions across the landscape and how we work to manage those forests can greatly influence wild turkey populations. Across America’s Mid-South Rebirth, actively managing our pine and hardwood forests is critical to both current and future numbers of wild turkeys, as well as many wildlife species. However, there is much to consider when determining what is best for both wildlife and landowner. 

For instance, how do you harvest your trees? Should you strive for an even-aged or uneven-aged timber stand? Do you allow trees grow back naturally, or do you replant with nursery stock? What is the end goal: Is it timber production, improving overall forest health or improving brood-rearing and nesting habitat for turkeys? The possibilities are endless.

With all the variations in practices, forest stands, wildlife needs and even landowner needs and desires, it’s difficult to provide specific direction across entire landscapes. Taking into account the pros and cons of practices, methods and long-term management regimes can help you figure out what works best in certain areas.  


• Clear-Cut: Removes all trees regardless of size or species from any stand of timber.

• Seed Tree: Removes all trees from the forest at one time except for a few scattered trees left to provide seed to establish a new forest stand. You must follow some post-cutting guidelines for this method of regeneration to succeed.. 

• Shelterwood: Removes trees on the harvest area in a series of two or more cuttings over time, so new seedlings can become established from the seeds of older trees to produce an even-aged stand.

• Group/Batch Selection: Removes clusters of trees of all sizes and ages in small areas, usually ranging from 2 to 5 acres in size.

• Individual Selection: Selects individual trees or small groups of trees at periodic intervals (usually five to 15 years) based on their physical condition or maturity to produce an uneven-aged stand. 


Even-Aged Management



Provides most stages of habitat succession, including early successional stages

Lacks vertical diversity (vegetation from ground level to tree canopy)within forest stands

Allows for horizontal habitat (cover-providing vegetation at ground level)across the landscape

Eliminates matures trees and snags are not prevalent

Reduces relative cost of timber management and harvest compared to uneven-aged management

Reduces species, age and size diversity of trees in stand

Favors shade-intolerant tress that are generally higher in timber value

Increases forest and habitat fragmentation, which can hurt some species living within forests.


Aesthetically less pleasing than uneven-aged management

Uneven-Aged Management

Provides vertical diversity from multi-storied canopies (varying tree heights) in forest stands

   Little horizontal diversity and early-successional stage habitats

Provides for a diversity of tree species, ages and sizes

   Timber management and harvest costs are higher than even-aged management

The scale of stand disturbance is less than even-aged management, although entries into stands may be more numerous

Retains more mature trees and snags then even-aged management 

Results in a more continuous forest canopy which is more aesthetically pleasing than even-aged management


Used for shade-tolerant tree regeneration and management



Natural Regeneration

Lower establishment costs    Less control over spacing and stocking rates
Less labor and equipment required

   Longer rotations needed

Seeds adapted to the site

   Greater risk of seed loss
Less soil disturbance   Lose option of using genetically improved seedlings
More visually appealing

   Pre-commercial thinning sometimes required


   Irregular stands that result are often difficult to harvest


   High value trees at risk with possible lower stumpage value

Artificial Regeneration

Control of seedling spacing

   Higher establishment costs than natural regeneration

Use of genetically improved seedlings

   Greater chance for site disturbance and an increase in potential for soil erosion


   Less visually appealing

— Mark Hatfield



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